The stage is set for Sex and the City 2 to break some records: in bad reviews! Already, the critics are circling the carcass. Right now, the film has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes — based on five reviews (a regular phenomenon, to be sure).
It will obviously go up. But by how much? My guess: 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. 38 on Metacritic.
***UPDATE 2: Sex and the City 2 opened at $74 million worldwide, $46 million domestically, beating Prince of Persia but underperforming the first intallment.***
The previous film garnered solidly mediocre reviews. It divided critics pretty sharply down the middle, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring 49% of critics as liking (or tolerating) the film and Metacritic giving it a score of 53.
I was pretty sympathetic to the first film, giving it a “just fine” as a movie and defending its cultural importance. Of course, I strongly believe the series was one of the best of the aughts, and had a lot of value culturally and artistically, a view at odds with a number of my close friends.
I was also quite aware that the first film had a significant gender bias hurdle to overcome. As I demonstrated, male critics were more likely to view the film either negatively or ambivalently. Surprisingly, female critics actually didn’t join in — as some have claimed happens — and were more likely to like the film, with the notable exception of Manohla Dargis, who panned it vigorously. It seems, though, most critics didn’t know what to do with it — kind of like how they can’t quite understand Tyler Perry.
Well, that was the first film, with all its production placement, crass writing (poop jokes), and generally un-feminist ending (she still gets married!). Barely redeemable and enjoying a halo effect from my sadness of the loss of the series.
WHAT’S BRINGING DOWN PART II
The second film looks completely unredeemable. The product placement will still be there — HP once again tries to be hip, post-Lady Gaga — but now we have to add-in blatant Orientalism, the struggle for a plot (already the first film was pushing it) and aging women (which apparently still bothers critics). Some critics have preemptively declared the franchise dead.
David Edelstein’s review for New York, among the first, is ruthless:
The most depressing thing about Sex and the City 2 is that it seems to justify every nasty thing said and written about the series and first feature film. The SATC dynamic has always been fragile, but at its most affecting you could see beyond the costumes and artifice and feel the characters fighting for validation—and connecting with one another in their struggle. Now there’s nothing but surface. And what a surface.
The thinking behind the movie (written and directed by Michael Patrick King) is undisguised. Let’s start with an over-the-top gay wedding! Then we’ll send the girls to Abu Dhabi so they can rile up the fundamentalists with their sexuality! Then they’ll make fun of women in niqab (“Certainly cuts down on the Botox bill!”) but later show (campy) feminist solidarity! Won’t they look great swishing around the desert being waited on by smooth young Arab men?
Ouch. On the other hand, The Hollywood Reporter waxed diplomatic saying: “Even with its excesses, Carrie and company’s excellent Arabian adventure will leave viewers thinking and arguing as well as swooning over the digs and the rags.” But even Stephen Farber remarked it’s a “confounding” blend of being “proudly feminist and blatantly anti-Muslim.”
Even Edelstein is probably being fair. The motivations for the second film — and likely a third — can be seen two ways: generously and cynically. Generously, fans want it, and Michael Patrick King is just giving fans what they want. Cynically: c’mon, the first film grossed over $415 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing women’s film of 2008.
I think generally critics will be cynical, which is fine, since, yes, everyone involved is doing it for the money. Can you blame them? They’re all pushing (or past) 50 and aren’t really working, except SJP and she’s not necessarily box office gold. Who wouldn’t want to suit up in couture and get to play a sexual character to the last time, you know, ever (unless Nancy Meyers does another It’s Complicated So Something’s Gotta Give).
Artistically, the story is over — in the words of Carrie, “soooo over.” The series finale was pitch perfect, all the films are pure efforts at printing cash. That the franchise, which admittedly is already racially problematic, has to travel across the world and caricature of Muslim/Arab culture and history for laughs is only going to further engrage critics.